Isolation requirements for schoolchildren who are close contacts of a confirmed case of Covid-19 are set to ease, under plans discussed on Thursday by the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet).
Unvaccinated children who are close contacts will not have to stay out of school from the end of September, The Irish Times reports.
The requirement for unvaccinated children to stay off school is likely to be eased from the week beginning September 27th, but it depends on data on transmission in schools not showing a sudden or unexpected surge.
Vaccinated children currently do not have to restrict their movements if they are close contacts.
A key requirement will be for people who start to display symptoms to stay at home, health sources say, as reduced compliance in this area will likely drive rapid growth in the disease and endanger reopening plans.
We are seeing a slow improvement in the overall epidemiological situation, with incidence, numbers in hospital and daily admissions to hospital decreasing. 1/5 pic.twitter.com/okCjYuGOMD
— Professor Philip Nolan (@President_MU) September 16, 2021
Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said that restrictions on movements on asymptomatic close contacts may soon be eased for wider society.
Nphet has also given the go-ahead for planned restrictions to be eased from Monday, which will see a phased return to the workplace and relaxation on rules for indoor and outdoor events.
It comes as the number of children aged five to 12 tested for Covid-19 has quadrupled in the last three weeks, with about one per cent of the age group being tested for the virus every day.
Professor Philip Nolan, who chairs the Nphet Epidemiological Modelling Advisory Group, said there is a modest increase in incidence in primary school children following the reopening of schools.
However, he said health officials are seeing a “slow improvement” in the overall epidemiological situation, with incidence, numbers in hospital and daily admissions to hospital decreasing.
The massive increase in testing has yielded a much smaller increase in the number of infections detected
“The number of people in ICU remains high, and it will take a number of weeks for decreasing incidence before we see a significant decrease in the numbers requiring critical care,” he said.
“We have seen a huge increase in demand for testing of asymptomatic children who have come in contact with an infected person; testing in children aged five to 12 has quadrupled over the last three weeks, so we are now testing one per cent of that age group every day.
“The massive increase in testing has yielded a much smaller increase in the number of infections detected, and it is likely that there is at worst a modest increase in incidence in children of primary school age coincident with the opening of schools.
“What we are seeing is the benefits of very widespread vaccination – almost 90 per cent of those aged 16 and over – along with population-wide adherence to basic mitigation measures.
“Incidence will decline further, reducing risk for all, if we stick with these measures.”
A further 1,413 cases of Covid-19 were notified on Thursday.
—Additional reporting by Press Association.